I should probably title the post “Searching for info in all the wrong places…. ” Can’t you hear the song in your head? I am humming along because that is the problem isn’t it? It is a constant struggle to persuade students to try anything that doesn’t star with G and end with oogle. We’ve been long-time subscribers to CERF (which locates information from a curated collection of reviewed web sites). No sifting through sponsored ads and no worries about evaluating the credibility of the site and yet…there is push-back. I lure students by showing them one of CERF’s features: it will provide a bibliography of selected sites in MLA or APA format. A frequent lament when I highlight the wonders of databases is “Why can’t they be more like Google?” ” Why do I need to remember a password?” Students (and grown-ups) want ease of use and the familiarity that Google offers. I get it! Who doesn’t want instant gratification (or the illusion of immediate success). If truth be told, I too wish the search process could be easier for students.
When redesigning the library site this year, I kept student concerns in mind. I created a more visual page and included two short videos: What Are Databases and Why You Need Them and Searching Databases both by the talented staff of Yavapai College Library. This year, I was happy to revamp my database web page to also include a new “SeeK” button (Harry Chan and his magical staff at OPALS have made searching databases easy for all of us.) With one password, students can now search all of our databases!
Although I’ve spent a lot of time this year on database exploration and training, I haven’t devoted any time to learning about new search engines. This was my goal for the day. As I work with (and research with) students from PreK up, I was especially interested in those search tools for young learners. I began by reading Phil Bradley’s Children’s search engines; 13 reviewed and assessed and quickly discovered that he was unimpressed by the roster of tools for children. Undaunted, I continued on to make my own decisions.
After a variety of searches, using common research terms culled from broader topics (ancient civilizations, solar system, animals, etc), I set out to see if there were tools I needed to add to our library page and in my arsenal of power tools! There were two winners (and I’ve already added them to the page). Kid Rex, with it’s appealing interface (who doesn’t love dinosaurs?) and ad-free relevant results was a stand-out for young researchers. Created using Google-custom search (as so many of the search products are), it will be an easy sell. The second winner is Sweet Search. I read Richard Byrne’s School Library Journal article Alternative Search Tools: These options to Google will help students become better researchers. His screencast tutorial highlighting Sweet Search (and it’s sister products) persuaded me to give the Dulcinea Media project another look. I read with interest this blog post which offers a comparison of search results between SweetSearch and Google and Bing, Although the interface is busier and the results are displayed with more text, the searches I tried were met successfully with relevant, content rich results. Sweet Search also plays well with others including EasyBib, Evernote, Facebook, and Twitter. Students can sync with Google Drive and send the results directly to a Google Doc, With strong search results and bonus feature, this well-thought out tool will be easy to promote.
Ultimately, all the databases and search tools I place on the page are just window dressing unless students and teachers persuaded (cajoled, encouraged, educated, bribed…) to use them. But that will be always the challenge and mission. Aren’t we all trying to find the ideal way to get the best resources to students? Next step: tweak and improve database/search engine instruction. I am in!